When Avril, a young, impressionable novice nun is put into a chapel retreat for two weeks prior to taking her vows, she goes gladly. But when told by one of the nuns, Sister Bernadette, she has a brother and given the chance by Bernadette to explore the world beyond the convent walls, she does so. With the help of Pierre, a charming stranger who is passing by, she tracks down her brother, David and his lover, Jim, to an idyllic seaside retreat.

The unlikely foursome form a strong bond and Avril slowly discovers the delights and freedom of the world beyond the convent and how stifled she has been by the constraints of her order.

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Eventually Avril feels it is time to return to finish the job she was set: to whitewash the chapel walls. She enlists the help of the three men but it isn't long before the four of them find themselves on a collision course to conflict with the fanatacism of the Mother Superior and the truth about Avril's life.

The acting is uniformly excellent in this tale of love, devotion, discovery, forgiveness and, ultimately, redemption. Sophie Quinton, as Avril, evolves from a wide-eyed, sheltered innocent to a fully-fledged young woman who is slowly discovering the delights of life. Her portrayal of both the interior and exterior journey Avril takes is a revelation. Miou-miou as Sister Bernadette plays the role of a woman tortured by her past decisions and her current regrets beautifully. Genevieve Casile is also powerful as the demented Mother Mary-Joseph and all three men, Nicholas Duvachelle as the restrained Pierre, Clement Sibony as the indulged David and Richard Valls as his boyfriend have an easy charm and goodness that seduces us, just as it does Avril.

The filming - in Calvados and the Camargue - is very easy on the eye. The camera makes us feel as if we are on the beach with them. The screenplay just evolves with the naturalness of the journey that Avril takes and the dialogue is simple and unpretentious.

This is a little gem. It does not seem to travel very far and yet the central character makes an extraordinary journey. If Hustache-Mathieu can coax this level of performance from his cast at his first attempt, I shall really look forward to his next. This is a truly promising debut. This film was a delight. Watch it, you will not be disappointed.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2008
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The life of a novice nun changes after she tracks down the brother she has never met.
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Director: Gerald Hustache-Mathieu

Writer: Gerald Hustache-Mathieu

Starring: Sophie Quinon, Miou-miou, Clement Sibony, Nicholas Duvauchelle, Richaud Valls, Genevieve Casile

Year: 2006

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


French 2008

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